Health concerns about the risks involved in licking envelopes have mounted in the last few years. Although there are many modern safety regulations that ensure that envelop glue is free of dangerous chemicals. Still, there are threats of terrorist activities, contamination of the glue, or negligence of government supervision, and even concerns regarding public hygiene. All these factors have created a general confusion of how dangerous licking envelopes can be.
Latex is a common ingredient of many envelope-glues and can pose a serious risk of allergies. In the United States, one to six percent of the people are affected by latex allergy. It means that licking envelopes can cause serious health effects ranging from reddening of skin, skin blisters, hives, nausea, increased heart rate and even breathing difficulties. This threat is normally insignificant if the person licks one envelope only. However, people in the post or mailing profession who have to send mass mail every day, must avoid licking envelopes at all costs and instead use a sponge applicator. A lot of people have secondary allergy to gluten, a major component of the sticky glue. Their bodies react to gluten whether it is in food, or on the side of the envelope. That is why many people prefer the peel-and-stick ones for regular use.
Although it happens under rare circumstances, sometimes insects such as cockroaches and other small pests may lay eggs on sticky part of the envelope. It is most likely to happen when the storage condition of the envelopes is poor, or when the envelopes have not been moved or shifted for a very long time, or there can be a major negligence issue during manufacturing. Infection causing pests such as dust mites feed on glue sometimes and lay eggs on the sticky portion. Licking such envelopes can hence become a major health hazard. Possibility of industrial malpractices cannot be overlooked. If the quality of water and other adhesives used in the envelope glue is substandard, it can cause contamination as well as infestation.
Tips and comments
The American Society of Microbiology believes twenty percent of Americans do not wash or clean hands after visiting a restroom or handling pets. If envelopes are being used in some public setup, then there are strong chances of contamination while handling them. Licking envelopes, especially those that have been around in many hands, can cause severe infections. There is even risk of getting paper cuts on the tongue, as the paper is semi-blunted on the edge where it is supposed to be licked. Some people think that the danger of licking envelopes is merely an urban legend. However, when you lick an envelope and after a while get fissures on the tongue, the tongue becomes swollen and irritated, or feels kind of numb; it means that you either got an allergic reaction or got your tongue damaged while licking. Therefore, the best option is to use glue or tape, keep it handy at all times whether in office or at home, and remember not to lick any more envelopes.